Could it already be that two weeks ago a Worm Moon in March, a mega moon based on its nearness to our marble, rocked our worlds?
Today a new moon marks the pas de deux of our planet and the moon, for whatever that means. I can’t tell you the why or how, but it’s always seemed instinctively correct to me that we are affected by the Earth, the moon and the rest of the Universe’s stars, planets, clouds, empty spaces and things unseen and unknown.
Scoff, but you’ll still respect the tides. If you’re a woman, you know that your period and the moon have a connection you have no power over. Day becomes night, and my planet affects me. The moon is full and I watch for the crazy to come out.
The rest of it, the understanding, is beyond me, and I lump that into the many things in which I have faith. What we call God, Jesus, Love all blend into the engine of the Universe for me. I don’t waver, I just don’t compute, and that’s ok.
I don’t know how cars work, but I turn the key and floor it down the road. I don’t know how television or electricity works (c’mon, I have a clue in general, but not on a function level), but I flick the switch without concern. There are many things that make life easier that we don’t bother to understand, and we use them anyway.
I speak of things too large for us to understand as something almost too small and squiggly to understand, a virus and all of its mutations, comes at us. This microscopic little monster is just as invisible as the dark side of the moon, but we know it’s here, circling the planet and suddenly reminding us of laws of nature that we’d become accustomed to bypassing.
Yesterday, our city council (Creswell has about 5,550 souls and growing), of which I am a member now for three years, cancelled our regularly-scheduled work session to meet in a special emergency meeting in which we would discuss the declaration of an official state of emergency and outline how to maintain public meeting laws in a new world of no public meeting.
Our City Manager and Mayor last week made the call and lined up a conference call. Technology worked for everyone and we chimed in for a 23-minute meeting, eventually voting unanimously to declare said emergency state. I made the motion, understanding the gravity. Yes votes came in carefully, clearly, one by one. A few statements for the record regarding our confidence in staff and our decisions were made and the meeting closed with the mayor’s distant gavel. Facebook and YouTube and the local paper assist us in getting the meeting audio (no video) out to those that wanted to hear the event.
This is such a big deal on so many levels. I was almost nauseas before the meeting, and afterwards I shook for hours. Normally I’m a pretty chill person, not much rattles me. Let me unpack this, please.
Ten or so years ago we had a peaceful revolution in which we, citizens suddenly alarmed that the popular kids in high school were in charge (that’s how it felt!) at city hall and that they were douchebags, looking out for their own interests in key, unpleasant ways. No one is all good or all bad, but the tipping point had been crossed when personal interests were being prioritized over private interests by council and staff leadership, and a perfect storm of change came over our town.
I was there as a curious and increasingly-involved citizen, and it’s that era that led me to serving on council now.
Before I showed up, an emergency response plan had been put together and was in draft form, and a Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) had been formed of energized, passionate people that were eager to continue the preparedness training. Requests were made to finalize the draft plan and I was in the room to witness the soon-to-be outgoing city administrator (we’ve changed the title since then) tell the room that nothing would happen, there was no need to finalize the draft plan, that no action was needed.
He continued to assert that emergency planning and preparedness would not be a priority at our city hall in the face of citizens requesting such planning. Later, the fire chief confirmed the craziness of the non-preparedness plan and we were doubly-glad to be rid of the prior crew.
Fast forward to the last few years, and we have moved forward at the city level not just emergency-related plans, but all of the major strategic plans that help us map our future.
Last year, council adopted a sub-document that maps out the five biggest risks to our area, emergency-wise, and other documents that formalize the transfer of power and method of public meeting in a disrupted time.
Yesterday, we needed that plan for real and it was utilized for a smooth transfer of realities. Our city manager (Michelle Amberg, a Renaissance woman of science and heart) is in charge in an environment in which normal rules are suspended, allowing her to execute major decisions on her authority alone. She, of course, is not alone, and orchestrates staff and citizens to appropriate actions on normal days. In these extraordinary times, we want her empowered to make the calls she needs to make, without processes that take months normally.
Ten years ago, I would not have trusted the leaders that said nothing would ever happen emergency-wise, but I wouldn’t have known why, or how to respond from a policy perspective to urge a more active response.
But I knew something was wrong, and others sensed it, too.
How do you like us now, past people that said we’d never need an emergency response plan?
How do you like us now, internet trolls and snarkers (you know who you are), that enjoy pitching insults at city leaders without knowing our names, work, accomplishments, process, heart, goodness, or even showing up in the council chambers almost ever?
In the face of an emergency of unknown shape or proportions, our city’s leadership is responding peacefully and clearly, doing our thing without relying on plans in draft that had been maybe untouched for years.
A month ago, I went at it on Facebook with a man that called the folks at city hall “ass hats.” No one else took him on from my side of the argument, knowing I had it under control. It didn’t hurt me to publicly argue with him that we deserve respect. It empowered me to realize that I finally had skin in some game in my life, and that I was finally a bona fide member of a team that would not only have me, but on which I could serve my hometown and grow up a bit myself.
There was a second internet troll that likes to snark for his own ego and entertainment, typically responding to city hall’s request for public input with a statement that we aren’t sincere in the request. I take his self-entertaining comments personally, and he typically inserts into our back and forth that if I am in politics, I should be able to take the toxic ingredients he brings to our mass stew or quit. He’s not able to state more of a goal than stirring a pot, but he is unaware of the stir being a good thing or a bad thing.
For the trolls, city hall is populated with non-humans. They throw out their insults and snarks as if we aren’t their neighbors; aren’t people who have helped them directly in the near-past (I helped this guy and his family move – truck, trailer and teenaged labor); aren’t the people at the table at a library fund-raiser looking at them wanting to understand the attack.
City management is policy, not partisan politics. It is a volunteer role that has real-world impacts and exposure. The councilors are personally liable on many levels. It is real skin in the game. No one is playing.
A few weeks ago we had the luxury of sniping back and forth about things that seems suddenly less important. City hall went on with its work, much of it now stopped but a lot still continuing, like utility line repairs and other necessary services.
Staff are not in quarantine at home and are required in the case of an emergency to report to work, and they are, as usual.
So, a decade ago, we had no plan. A year ago we make major plan progress and yesterday, the plan kicked into action in a legal and real way.
I sit back, trying to piece together this big and little world. Thinking about planets and stars and neighborhoods and viruses and fear and not-fear; thinking about what I can and can’t do in this new world; of extrapolations that end in the zombie apocalypse or a global rebirth.
And I think about how proud I am of our town’s leadership in this last decade, and hope that the nattering nabobs of negativity out there have reason to re-assess their perspective about city hall and council and come join us.
And the irony, I am binge-watching Survivor, Season 18, as we await the tsunami of germs coming our way. I am on Team JT.